My Journey Back to Health: Barbara Wall and RSD
By Guest Blogger Barbara Wall, Power Over Pain of Arkansas
(Note: This is a success story from someone with RSD/CRPS that saw Dr. Katinka van der Merwe. To read our article on Dr. Katinka van der Merwe’s approach, click here).
I was living life and enjoying all things around me. I did not feel that I took much of anything for granted. In 2005, I suffered a severe injury to my cervical spine (broken neck) as well as other injuries. As if dealing with a broken neck was not enough I received the diagnosis of Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD), today known as Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS). I had the opportunity to practice as a registered nurse for twenty five years. I was hoping to get beyond this illness and the acute daily pain in order to continue my professional career. I did absolutely everything the doctors ordered and pushed myself each and every day during physical therapy. After a host of medication changes and numerous stellate ganglion blocks, lumbar sympathetic blocks, and cervical epidural steroid injections my body did not go into remission. I was forced to quit a career I absolutely loved and began focusing on my health. Every day was full of appointments, disappointments, physical therapy, occupational and pool therapy.
I was able to establish a great team of medical doctors and felt comfortable with my care. The pain continued to overwhelm my mind and body. My family remained so supportive and encouraging, but I needed a strength so far greater than they could give. Each day was such a challenge, but with God, family, and my own inner strength I was able to wake up every morning and tell myself “I can and I will do this.” As days, months, and years passed by with constant pain, I was able to keep my attitude in the game of life and continue to fight this fight. I was finally approved for a spinal cord stimulator (SCS) and responded well to the three day trial. Months after the trial I was approved for a permanently implanted SCS. My quality of life was drastically improved and it gave me enough relief most days to continue my daily regime of physical therapy and two hours of pool therapy. We could not decrease any of my medication or I would have a setback. I totally relied on my SCS for pain control because I did not respond to narcotic medications.
I would define the past ten years with full body RSD as mind blowing, traumatic, overwhelming, and most of all changing. I have a great joy for life and all the wonderful opportunities it has to offer. Opportunities are not without work and living with this condition is work, hard work.
In June 2015, things would again change. Even though I continued to live with daily pain, that would also change. Yes, it changed for the worse. I made a simple movement with my neck and felt a horrible pop with lightning pain. I could not raise my head and the pain was intense. My SCS would not touch the pain which was unusual. After weeks of sleeplessness nights, severe pain, and diagnostic tests we found the culprit. I had damaged two of the discs in my neck and therefore, pushed my SCS paddle to the right. Because the paddle had shifted, I lost all coverage for pain on the left side. Now I had to decide what to do and how to treat this. My concerns were so overwhelming about surgery and the risk of exacerbating the RSD. My spine specialist was concerned about the surgery and the risks involved. We did not want to send my body into a state that would push me back to the initial insult. I did not want to EVER go back to where I was ten years ago. I have dedicated my life to rehabilitation and maintaining what I have achieved with all of my therapies.
After lots of research and answers to many prayers, I found a doctor in my home state of Arkansas that was having amazing results with RSD patients. Dr. Katinka van der Merwe is a chiropractor that specializes in Quantum Neurology. Quantum Neurology is all about restoring balance in the Autonomic Nervous System. October 12, 2015, was my first appointment with Dr. Katinka and I was cautiously optimistic. I had never been evaluated nor treated by a chiropractor before. She does not perform manipulations as part of her “Three Punch” system. The treatment modalities and techniques that she uses are unlike any I have ever received. Her technique is painless, non-invasive, and does not require any medications. The day I arrived at her clinic my pain level was 8/10. After my initial evaluation and treatment my pain had dropped to a 4/10. As the weeks and treatments progressed my pain level has remained at a zero the majority of the time.
As most of you are aware RSD has no known cure, but there is hope in hopeless situations. Even with my continued spine issues and the need for surgery on my cervical spine, I have been able to maintain low to no pain with my RSD. I cannot tell you how amazing it is after ten years of chronic pain to actually sleep throughout the night, to not feel like you are burning from within, and to finally be able to plan events in my life.
After completing ten weeks of treatments with Dr. Katinka I have been able to slowly stop all of my RSD prescription medications. My mind feels so much more alert and the ability to communicate without losing your train of thought is amazing. I am forever grateful that Dr. Katinka has such a passion and desire to help those who suffer from this isolating, devastating, life altering condition. Do not accept life as it is if you are suffering, and never give up hope! I encourage you to be your own advocate and get help.